Thursday, May 3, 2018

Pompeii in Phoenix

The Arizona Science Center has had their exhibit on Pompeii for a few months now--it closes in just a couple of weeks here. Naturally, though, everyone (including me) is currently looking at the calendar and saying, whoa, I need to go see that before it's gone. I had how long and yet I had to wait until May?

Timing doesn't matter, though, as long as you do make it over. This is quite the exhibit to see, not one to miss. Was it, though, everything I wanted it to be?

That's a strange question. Pompeii is one of those settings, like the Titanic (the Science Center had a pretty good exhibit on that several years back, too), that is romanticized because of its tragedy and just exists in this crazy fictional space in our heads despite being historical. The fact that we're talking about real people almost increases the fictional side of it all. So you go in thinking about the marketing image of the volcano exploding--and you want that romanticized horror factor. You can't pretend that you aren't seeking that.

But honestly, that's sad. Pompeii, the place known as the city where so many people died, is sad. So this exhibit was sad. I don't want to give away the final couple of rooms in case anyone hasn't been to see it yet--but they set it up well to give an effect. So if you're coming in to see tragedy, you'll see tragedy.

And the rest of it? You do get to see some great artifacts. Marble statues, mosaics, furniture, dishes, jewelry, money, tools, theatre masks, gladiator gear, etc. They're extremely old and also from a part of the world that, well, we don't get many artifacts from here in the Southwest. It's fascinating to see all of these little details from the Roman culture. The mosaics and furniture were some of my favorites to see, I think. But even all of this still brought me back to that sad feeling. Coming from my personal perspective, so many aspects of the Roman lifestyle just make me feel sad. I came in expecting to be sad about how these people died but I ended up feeling sad about how they had lived. And yes, yes, this is why I emphasize the phrase "personal perspective." I'm not trying to be judgy about dead people. But how can you really go in and read things about, for instance, gladiators and not feel at least some shred to regret? (And seeing things like this that stand out in past cultures can remind us of things that will stand out to people in the future about our culture, bringing these around to a reminder of what we can be doing better. So, yes, sadness about the failings of our humanity in general.)

We live and then we all die. That is the story of the Pompeii exhibit.

What are the footprints that you want to leave behind?

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